Liberation of Libya
This article appeared in The Nation newspaper on December 4 2011.
How is that liberation of Libya thing working out?
Now, I am well aware that Muammar Qaddafi may have had a few little faults. I have no wish to downplay his darker side. I have written about this in some detail at:
He armed many terrorist groups and bankrolled the genocidal leader of Ethiopia, Mengistu Haile Mariam, trained Charles Taylor of Liberia and gave sanctuary to Idi Amin.
The plus side was that Libya’s oil revenues were distributed very widely, creating a welfare state from which virtually all Libyans benefited with high standards of healthcare, high rates of schooling for girls as well as boys, a literacy rate of 88% per cent, more opportunities for women than in other Arab countries and the highest per capita income in Africa.
How does Colonel Gadfly compare to other monsters around the world? Saddam Hussein was hanged; Osama Bin Laden was shot; many other bad people have been assassinated. What was his kill rate compared to GW Bush, Tony Blair and Barack Obama?
Would he have fallen if he had not given up his nuclear weapons?
Hugh Roberts, writing in the London Review of Books, said:
“Numerous states in Africa and Asia and no doubt Latin America as well (Cuba and Venezuela spring to mind) may wish to consider why the Jamahiriyya, despite mending its fences with Washington and London in 2003-4 and dealing reasonably with Paris and Rome, should have proved so vulnerable to their sudden hostility. And the Libyan war should also prompt us to examine what the actions of the Western powers in relation to Africa and Asia, and the Arab world in particular are doing to democratic principles and the idea of the rule of law.”
Western intervention was justified by the news that, on 21 February, the regime was using its air force to slaughter peaceful demonstrators in Tripoli and other cities. The main purveyor of this story was al-Jazeera, but the story was quickly taken up by Sky, CNN, the BBC, and ITN. At this point, according to Human Rights Watch, the total death toll since 15 February was 233. The total death toll in Tunisia was 300 and in Egypt at least 846. According to Roberts, the ‘genocide’ claim was “histrionic rubbish which none of the organisations with an interest in the use of the term was moved to challenge”.
Roberts again: “The slanted coverage in the British media in particular, notably the insistence that the regime was faced only by peaceful demonstrators when, in addition to ordinary Libyans trying to make their voices heard non-violently, it was facing politically motivated as well as random violence (e.g. the lynching of 50 alleged mercenaries in al-Baida on 19 February), was consistent with the destabilisation theory. And on the evidence I have since been able to collect, I am inclined to think that destabilisation is exactly what was happening.”
“It is tendentious and dishonest to say simply that Qaddafi was ‘killing his own people’; he was killing those of his people who were rebelling. He was doing in this respect what every government in history has done when faced with a rebellion. We are all free to prefer the rebels to the government in any given case. But the relative merits of the two sides aren’t the issue in such situations: the issue is the right of a state to defend itself against violent subversion. That right, once taken for granted as the corollary of sovereignty, is now compromised”.
NATO freedom fighters!
A report has been prepared for the attention of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Yes, another one. This one apparently says there have been war crimes in Libya. Yes – Libya. Not Sri Lanka.
Who has been committing the crimes? The freedom fighters supported by NATO seem to have been doing their share.
According to the UN report, thousands of people, including women and children, are being illegally detained by rebel militias, the victors supported by NATO in Libya. The Independent reports that many of the prisoners are suffering torture and systematic mistreatment while being held in private jails outside the control of the country’s new government. A UN resolution was secured in to protect civilians from merciless suppression by the Qaddafi regime. Political prisoners held by the Qaddafi regime have been released, but their places have been taken by up to 7,000 “enemies of the new state” under the control of revolutionary brigades, “with no access to due process in the absence of a functioning police and judiciary”.
The report states that both sides committed war crimes in the bitter battle for Colonel Qaddafi’s hometown, Sirte. Armed militias continue to control many towns settling internecine feuds through gun battles.
The city of Tawerga, whose residents were mainly black, was largely destroyed by rebel fighters from neighbouring Misrata. A number of black Africans were lynched following claims, often false, that they were hired guns for the Qaddafi regime. “Cases have been reported of individuals being targeted because of their skin colour.” Blacks have been targeted for torture and “revenge killings, or taken by armed men from their homes, checkpoints and hospitals, and some allegedly later abused or executed in detention”.
The report acknowledges the brutality of the outgoing regime. Ban Ki-moon said: “I was deeply shocked by my visit to an agricultural warehouse in the Khallital-Ferjan neighbourhood of Tripoli where elements of the Qaddafi regime had detained civilians in inhuman conditions, had subjected some to torture and had massacred as many as they could and burned their bodies.
Quadaffi strongly opposed the installation of the US military’s Africom on the soil of any African country. He funded a wide range of development projects in sub-Saharan countries. Libya is rich not only in oil. Quadaffi planned to exploit the immense water reserves under Libya’s Sahara and to transform the economic prospects of the Sahel countries. Western, particularly French, water companies are now salivating at the prospects of profit.